Book review: “The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches” by Sangu Mandanna

Number of Stars: 3 of 5

Genre: Fantasy, Whimsy, Magic, Romance

Edition: Ebook

Synopsis taken from author’s website:

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family—and a new love—changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules… with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos “pretending” to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and… Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for…

My review:

I’ve got to say I love the author’s writing style, humor, and voice. She had me smiling, I could picture each scene and how the characters looked and acted.


However, this review may have been a solid 4 stars of enjoyment for me, if it wasn’t for the ending. After such a meandering, pleasant story, that ending was rushed and very flat. I didn’t like how Mika basically strong-armed the other witches into seeing things her way. Wasn’t tidy at all, or believable.


It read like a forced HEA for me personally.

Happy reading!

Rlygirl

LGBTQ+ Historical Icons Book tag

I was tagged by the delightful Georgia of Lost in Neverland for this colorful and fun prompt. Originally created by Laura of @TheCornerofLaura, see how she got the idea and which books she chose here!

Now on to the rules:

  • Link back to the original creator (The Corner of Laura) and link back to this page (otherwise, the original creator won’t get a notification).
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link back to their post
  • (Optional) Use the graphics and don’t forget to credit the original creator (Text prompts are at the end of the tag if you’d prefer to use those)
  • (Optional) Tag 5 or more other people.

Prompt #1

I immediately think of Elizabeth Acevedo when it comes to poetry or books written entirely in verse. I loved this one about two sisters who didn’t know the other existed until their father passes away. Excellent and powerful writing in verse.

Prompt #2

Nahri is an amazing, kind healer and she goes through so much in this epic trilogy. It seems as though everyone in the Daevebad world wants to use her as their pawn. She is forced into an arranged marriage with a prince even though he’s in love with another man. I commend her for her strength!

Prompt #3

This is one of my favorite books and it lives on my living room table. I love the gorgeous artwork and each story/myth touches on a variety of topics like forbidden love, nature, war and family. Some I’ve heard of before, and some were entirely new to me.

Prompt #4

This story is told via the journal entries of Dashti, maid to Lady Saren, who is locked in a tower for refusing to marry the man her father chose. The story surprised me and has a sweet ending! It also has one of the best love triangles I’ve ever read.

Prompt #5

Well my 1st choice for this prompt would have been Aelin/Celaena of the “Throne of Glass” series, but the lovely person who tagged me (Georgia) used that one, lol, so a close second would be Gideon of the Ninth House! I love her. She is the perfect bada**, fights smart, and makes you laugh with her witty comments. What’s not to love?

Prompt #6

Does a book about a school count? This was a fun adventure. I liked hearing (read it in audiobook) about the different artistic talents the students had, and how they learned to control them (for the most part). I think there is also a powerful message about not judging people by what they look like on the outside.

Prompt #7

This was a difficult prompt. I haven’t read many books with courtroom scenes, so I’m going to have to go with this classic I read in high school. Rather a sad book, I remember.

Prompt #8

This book was so inspiring! When I got to the last page my thoughts were pinging about like “wow, that is one of the most interesting books I’ve read yet! Great cast of diverse characters and strong, independent females!” I’m a big fan of Peter Djèlí Clark and follow his thought-provoking blog as well.

Thanks again for the fun tag, Georgia of Lost in Neverland!

Happy reading,

Rlygirl

Book review: “What the Hell, I’m Going to Mars” (novella) by Willie Handler

Number of stars: 3 out of 5

Genre: Humor, Sci-Fi

Edition: Ebook

The synopsis:

A prequel to Loved Mars Hated The Food, Dix Jenner, a self proclaimed slacker, is the first chef to live-and maybe die-on Mars. He eventually survives after crossing paths two friendly Martians and even opens a cafe. But this is the story about how Dix was selected by NASA for this historic mission.

My review:

Funny novella. I liked how the author really showed the reader how the NASA training program worked each step of the way, and how it wasn’t all glitz and glamor.


The protagonist (chef) is rather naughty, eating pot brownies and shirking training, portrayed as a salt-of-the-earth type guy, which was fun to read about. At least the protagonist wasn’t perfect and born knowing everything.


A part I didn’t like? Insta-love trope. Dix sees this girl, immediately has thoughts of marrying her and about how many children they’ll have. Ew.

I’ll be reading the next novel “Loved Mars, Hated the Food” to see what happens next!

Enjoy!

-Rlygirl

Book review: “Woman Last Seen in her Thirties” by Camille Pagán

Number of Stars: 3 of 5

Genre: Contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance

Edition: Hardcover

Synopsis taken from author’s website:

She’s a woman on the verge of a nervous breakthrough.

At fifty-three, Maggie Harris has a good marriage and two mostly happy children. Perpetually anxious, she’s also accumulated a list of semi-reasonable fears: falling air conditioners, the IRS, identity theft, skydiving, and airbag recalls. But never once did Maggie worry that her husband of nearly thirty years would leave her.

On the day Adam walks out the door, everything that makes Maggie secure goes with him. Only then does she realize that while she’s been busy caring for everyone else, she’s become invisible to the world—and to herself.

Maggie cautiously begins to rebuild her life with a trip to Rome, a new career, and even a rebound romance. But when a fresh crisis strikes and an uncertain future looms, she must decide: How much will she risk to remain the woman she’s just become?

My review:

I have a few mixed feelings after reading this book.

One: It was not the humorous chick-lit I was expecting, especially considering its smirk-worthy book title. So I feel a little robbed/tricked. Perhaps I should have read the synopsis more closely.
This book dealt with real and raw emotions. A messy divorce (is there even an easy divorce though?) picking up the pieces of ones self, learning and trying to start over, mental health stigmas (eg. “do I really need to go to a support group? Naw, that’s what other people do”) and aging.

Two: The main protagonist is decades older than me. Not that I didn’t enjoy reading about her, but can I really relate?

Three: This book has a rocky start. If I hadn’t thought to keep reading past messy Chapter 7 where protagonist Maggie kicked her soon-to-be ex husband out of the house on Thanksgiving because she needed to process some major emotions I probably would have DNFed this book. Keep reading past Chapter 7 if you pick this up, and don’t get discouraged.

All in all this was a thoughtful read and I loved most of the messages and life lessons throughout the book. They didn’t come across as preachy. I would never shelve this book in Chick-lit however. It is most definitely contemporary women’s fiction. Not a focus on romance or funny capers.

I’ve read and enjoyed Pagán’s “This Won’t End Well” and it had me in stitches, it was that funny and I wanted to read more by this author. But this is definitely a more serious book and don’t let booksellers tell you otherwise.

Happy reading!

Rlygirl

The Love Connection (Airport Novellas #1) by Denise Williams

Number of Stars: 4 out of 5

Genre: Chick-lit, Romance, Novella

Edition: E-book

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

Ollie Wright loves the thrill of taking chances, like opening a pet grooming salon in an airport where every day is a little unpredictable. The one thing she won’t risk is her heart, so catching glimpses of a cute stranger from afar is enough romantic entanglement for her.
 
Bennett Baker is a professional risk assessor by day while writing popular romance novels at night, except he finds himself facing writer’s block. His life of carefully planned stability comes crashing down when he rescues a slippery pup in the airport and returns it to the enchanting pet groomer whose laugh inspires him to start writing again.

Their chance encounter and instant chemistry thrusts them into a whirlwind of airport dates at pretzel kiosks, stolen glances at empty gates, and late-night texts that leave them swooning. If the risk-adverse Bennett can take a chance on uncertainty and adventurous Ollie will break her own rule, their relationship might stop taxiing and actually take off.

My review:

This was a cute and happy read! Great pacing, nothing felt rushed, and the characters still read like real people which I really appreciated in a novella.

Usually due to the length constraints something suffers. Not with this book!


Did I pick up this book due to the cute cover and 99% because of the dog? Yes. Plenty of doggo love throughout!


I highly recommend this funny, quick read. It will bring a smile to your face.

Happy reading,

Rly

Book Review “Twilight” (Twilight Saga #1) by Stephenie Meyer

Number of Stars: 2 of 5

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, YA, Romance

Edition: E-book

Synopsis:

Isabella Swan’s move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn.

Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife — between desire and danger.

Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

My review:

Ehhhh…

Ok I did it to myself. I wanted to read the books to see how they differed from the movies.
I know this is supposed to be a popular love story, and I saw the movies a decade ago, but when you actually read the meat of the story could we call “Twilight” a YA horror novel instead of a romance?

SO many creeps! I honestly don’t think Bella and Edward love each other. I think they are unhealthily obsessed with each other. Edward is a massive egomaniac creep, trying to pass his stalking off (even watching her sleep every night? C’mon) as care and concern. Bella isn’t any better. She’s the constant damsel in distress, too stupid to live, and wants to be with Edward from a crazy level of obsession (I know, that word again) not true love.

Just ew. I honestly liked the movies better. I think the screen write cut a lot of unnecessary filler that was in these books. Like all the mundane days at school where Bella would constantly look for Edward at his lunch table, and all the driving each others vehicles and awkward dialog between the two.
What’s with no less than 5 guys being attracted to Bella as well, especially as the author took great pains to explain and remind the reader that she was a normal, pasty girl from Arizona? Why?

FYI Alice is my favorite character. Could we get a book about her instead? Much more interesting.

Happy reading!

Book review: “The Daughter of Dr. Moreau” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Number of Stars: 2 of 5

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Edition: Hardcover (beautiful cover!)

Synopsis taken from book jacket:

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up on a remote and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them live in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey.

My review:

Well the last half of the book was enjoyable.

I haven’t read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau” but this book was based loosely on that.

I love Moreno-Garcia’s writing style, and how she immerses the reader in her world and describing the setting in a no-nonsense way that allows me to understand her fantasy.
I loved her book Gods of Jade and Shadow, but I didn’t like this one as much.


We have a protagonist who is overly sheltered and grew up far from peers or other women her age. We have a washed-up bitter alcoholic supporting character who is full of scars physically and mentally. We have the doctor who imagines himself God and even in his last moments never apologized for it.


The characters all worked well together, and there was intrigue, mystery and tragedy, but too little too late in my personal opinion. The book dragged. I could have done without the first few 10 chapters easily. I feel the pacing of slowly setting up the story could have been cut a little more, as I was already losing interest by the time I got to the middle of the book.


Perhaps this would be a good book for a long trip or plane ride where you don’t mind a slow pace?

Happy reading!

Book review: “Stolen Mayfly Bride” (book Eight of a mini collection) by Sarah K. L. Wilson

Number of Stars: 2 out of 5

Genre: Romance (chaste), Fantasy

Edition: Ebook

Synopsis:

Sometimes stealing a life is the only way to save it.
Elkhana is the Mayfly Seer. Ripped from her family, drowned, and set into a magical cage, she lives only one day a year to tell fortunes for her former people.
When Vidar meets her, he sees a resource he can use to save himself from his enemies and the torturous demands of his own liege and court.
But the bond between Elkhana and Vidar is growing. She’s slipping into his dreams and changing how he sees the world and he doesn’t know if he can keep on using her now that he sees her as a person.
Without her visions, he’s powerless against his enemies, but if he has the chance to steal her away from her cage, shouldn’t he take it?
To succeed, he’ll need a plan, a lot of nerve, and all the bargains he can strike. Will it be enough?

My review:

Ever read a book that had you raising your eyebrow at the end with a small half-smile?

That was me after this novella. Weird? The romance was sweet, but weird. It was told over decades and the author kept reminding the reader how awful humans were compared to fae, and much of the romance between the two main characters took place in a dreamscape.


Just… weird.

Happy reading!

Rlygirl

Book review: “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry

Number of stars: 5 of 5

Genre: Rom-com, Books about books, Chick-lit

Edition: Kindle e-book

Book synopsis:

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.
Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.
If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

I loved this book! It had me laughing and agreeing and understanding the main characters. This isn’t just a surface-level City Girl Visits a Small Town romance. There is so much more here than just a rom-com. There’s importance of family, career, self-respect, even difficult topics like grief, finding the courage to forgive yourself and silencing the inner voices that demand perfection.


I liked how this author didn’t go for a boring trope where career-focused City Girl falls for the hunky farmer, but rather City Girl (Nora) ends up naturally falling for another City Guy.


And there was SO much easy humor! I don’t know if I’ve read anything by Henry before, but damn, give this author a well-deserved slow clap PLEASE because she knows people and how to make her character sound like actual people.
The sisterly jokes, highs and lows, friendships, even flirtatious teasing/banter was all spot on and those dialog chunks were the parts I loved the most.


I made so many highlights on my Kindle edition of the book of crazy scenes I cackled over like Charlie’s childhood race car bed, Nora’s snappy comebacks when Charlie was spilling his past eg. “so that’s when your parents found out you were a serial killer.” (He wasn’t, but they were both masters of the deadpan).


I highly recommend this read! You won’t be disappointed.

Book review: Star Wars Canon “The Princess and the Scoundrel” by Beth Revis

Number of stars: 3 of 5

Genre: Star Wars, Space Opera, Romance

Edition: Hardcover

Synopsis:

The Death Star is destroyed. Darth Vader is dead. The Empire is desolated. But on the forest moon of Endor, amongst the chaos of a changing galaxy, time stands still for a princess and her scoundrel.
After being frozen in carbonite, then risking everything for the Rebellion, Han is eager to stop living his life for other people. He and Leia have earned their future together, a thousand times over. And when he proposes to Leia, it’s the first time in a long time he’s had a good feeling about this. For Leia, a lifetime of fighting doesn’t truly seem over. There is work still to do, penance to pay for the dark secret she now knows runs through her veins. Her brother, Luke, is offering her that chance—one that comes with family and the promise of the Force. But when Han asks her to marry him, Leia finds her answer immediately on her lips . . . Yes.
But happily ever after doesn’t come easily. As soon as Han and Leia depart their idyllic ceremony on Endor for their honeymoon, they find themselves on the grandest and most glamorous stage of all: the Halcyon, a luxury vessel on a very public journey to the most wondrous worlds in the galaxy. Their marriage, and the peace and prosperity it represents, is a lightning rod for everyone in the galaxy—including Imperial remnants still clinging to power.
Facing their most desperate hour, the soldiers of the Empire have dispersed across the galaxy, retrenching on isolated worlds vulnerable to their influence. As the Halcyon travels from world to world, one thing becomes abundantly clear: The war is not over. But as danger draws closer, Han and Leia find that they fight their best battles not alone but as husband and wife.

I’m a Star Wars fan. So anything written in that universe I will read. However, this book was “ok”. That’s that. Nothing special, nothing memorable.
Even though I enjoyed the story of how Han and Leia would have started their married life together, the push and pull as they figured out their roles in the New Republic, diplomacy vs. action, I think the pacing dragged and I the majority of the book came across as lackluster.

I think it had a lot to do with the massive amounts of “pondering” going on. Revis wrote these iconic characters as if they had nothing better to do than sit or stand or fly and THINK the whole time. Giant paragraphs of Leia (and Han too, as much as he’s supposed to be a man of action) “thinking about” this that and the other thing. They just couldn’t stop reminiscing about stuff we saw in the movies and then thinking through the future as well. SO much thinking.

Also that ship name distracted me… the Halcyon. Who hasn’t used that ship name? It cracked me up and made me think of the sarcastic video game “The Outer Worlds”.

That’s my thoughts anyways! Enough of that. All this thinking is contagious!